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[For an audio/vlog version of this story, click here.]

There are few things I like better than getting on a bus — or, more rarely as is the case, an aeroplane — for an escape from my routine and normal, everyday surrounds.

Hotel Hukumeizi, Palomino, Colombia

We could all do with more beaches and fewer bitches in our lives.

It’s something I’ve been able to do with regularity over the last few years in Colombia. The relative independence that comes with not having a full-time job, coupled with singlehood, has helped me to do this.

My adopted country’s size — it’s about 16 times larger than Ireland — and its fairly decent bus network from my Bogotá base helps as well. That Bogotá is the base is significant, in terms of both connectivity and my wanting to frequently take a break from it.

If I were based, say, in San Luis de Gaceno or, from where I currently write these lines, Palomino, my desire to regularly travel would probably be greatly reduced. Such outposts are, understandably enough, less connected than the capital. Plus, with my current mindset, I’d be happier to stay for protracted periods in them than in bustling Bogotá.

One aspect of such escapes that I particularly enjoy is my doing it alone. Solo sojourns. Indeed, as I age, I find that I’ve become more comfortable at shunning activities, events, and people that, instinctively, I’m sure will just annoy me.

As I put it in Paths to cleaner living, I’m more in the jomo (joy of missing out) camp than fomo (fear of missing out) one these days, especially when it comes to socialising of the raucous revelling variety.

Play the game
So the idea of a getaway with a big group of lads excites me as much as giving English classes to beginners.

Thus, despite the obvious upsides of a generously subsidised trip, with pay, to Colombia’s Caribbean coast, I could see the downsides of having to spend an indefinite period in the company of and working with previously unknown people, predominantly men. I would, to borrow from the poet Henry Newbolt, have to ‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

And play the game is apt here. Seeing as how the gig was an acting one made up of renowned professionals from Spain, journeymen, wannabes and, the category that best describes me, amateurs-by-accident — super extras in this case — there was much subterfuge. While women tend to take much of the flak for being spiteful gossipers, the boys can be just as bitchy as the girls.

‘Either the production team had a change of heart or the guy who told me this was talking horse manure from the start.’

It was the wannabes and amateurs-by-accident whom I got to know best. I was in the same hotel as some of them and we also spent many hours waiting around on set during the weeks of filming. (Hours waiting around on set is standard, especially, although not exclusively, for big-budget productions with complex scenes and fastidious — as the best probably are — directors.)

From previous but far shorter involvement in productions, I’d experienced the tendency for some of these minor players to think they’re bigger than they are. They behave as if they are directors whilst the reality is they are merely minions. Witnessing this sporadically is somewhat humorous. However, dealing with it on an almost daily basis is more of a headache.

Now, at the risk of making myself out to be bigger than I am — but do see my captivating cameo in Narcos, to name just one of my dazzling performances — such on-set behaviour is like a below-average student telling his more astute classmates that they need to up their performance levels. The best strategy is to ignore this noise, which I figure comes from some deep insecurity. It can be hard not to bark back at times, all the same.

One comes to expect this pathetic acting up on set. But it wasn’t left there.

At breakfast in our hotel one morning, a Bogotá-born colleague who had, he seemed to think anyway, the ear of the production’s decision-makers, informed me that a member of our group was going to be sent home prematurely because his behaviour was annoying some of the more important crew members. This didn’t happen.

So either the production team had a change of heart or the guy who told me this was talking horse manure from the start. I suspect it was the latter, especially considering the informant’s on-set conduct, portraying himself as a know-it-all.

This insidious — I say insidious for I believe it was said to me to create further divisions — as opposed to idle gossip came after a rift in the group of eight of us who travelled on the same flight from Bogotá for the initial bout of filming.

Such splits are common when a disparate group is assembled. Indeed, the series we were filming, Los 39, has splits galore — and plenty of gore — as it tells the story, with much artistic licence no doubt, of the 39 sailors left behind by Christopher Columbus in 1492 on the island of what today is called Hispaniola.

So that divisions, minus the bloodshed albeit, emerged in our real-life group of actors is far from shocking. True to form, none of the groupings appealed much to me. I wasn’t too bothered about trying to fit in with any of them in any case.

To restate, I’m quite content doing my own thing. So once I’d fulfilled my contractual obligations i.e. done what I had to do on set, I was happy to be left to my own devices.

The quiet man
There were, though, those in that group of eight with whom I connected. One was an easy-going Italian. That we were two of what I believe were just three non-native Spanish speakers employed by the production helped create a bond.

Yet, as a smoker, he was pulled, against his better judgement, into the orbit of a 50-something-year-old, Bogotá-based Spaniard who seems determined to silence silence — he just doesn’t shut up. To make this worse, it’s like he wants to be heard in his native land with each utterance. And he can’t seem to do anything independently: ‘We should do this. We should do that. We should go there.’

In his defence, there appears to be no malice in him. Nor is he pretentious, unlike the gossiping Bogotano mentioned earlier.

Nonetheless, much noise often comes from those with little genuine to say or show. I apply that to both the Bogotano and the Spaniard, even though they wouldn’t like to be grouped together.

In contrast, the principal actors, from the brief interactions I had with them, came across as affable. And while I would have been very happy to receive suggestions and/or advice from them during filming, they rarely commented. I guess they were focused on their roles, as one would expect. I suspect they are fairly secure in themselves, too.

Also, considering acting is their profession, when the cameras aren’t rolling they probably enjoy just being themselves. Some of the wannabes would do well to follow suit.

As for my preference for shunning contrived social gatherings, let’s just say I’m readying myself to play the lead role in Hollywood’s remake of The Quiet Man. I await the call.

Listen to The Corrigan Cast podcast here.

Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan — The Blog & IQuiz “The Bogotá Pub Quiz”.

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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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